Sunday, April 13, 2014

Game 31

Gotta FB message inviting me and the spousal unit over to a friend's house for a game of 31.  Spousal unit thought it was a retail party for selling tote bags that are the latest rage at tailgating gathering.  I inquired if it was some new version of strip poker.  It was neither, turns our its a card game, and the more that attend, the more fun it is!

The hostess provided all the party supplies and all the attendees were responsible for BYOB, and appetizer and $5 a head, to make it interesting for the gents.  Ain't no quicker way to get the men folk involved and to mention cards and money!

We had quite a few varieties of BYOB's.  Me, I took my Mic Ultras, the spousal unit had her iced down pino g. One woman came with a fully loaded wine in a box, just for her consumption.  I could just see her trying to explain it to the popo, "but officer, its not an open container" as she squeezed the outlet to refill her cup!  As far as beer, I saw Coors, Miller Lite, a Bud or two, but the craft beers have done took over.  Glad I brought my own, everybody offered one of those fancy beers to try, but there were too dang many choices, and some with the oddest of flavorings.  As my Uncle Jimmy Beckham told me, "if it looks like piss, it probably tastes like it too"!  He was a cocktail kinda guy.  With Uncle Jimmy still in my mind, I stuck with my Ultras.

Everyone filled their plate with all the appetizers that filled the kitchen.  You could tell the men folk didn't do the cooking, as meat was so scarce that I thought this was a gathering of vegetarians!  Me, I brought two boxes of cheese straws to further contribute to the lack of man grilled heaven.  One young feller had made a "buffalo dip" and I congratulated him on almost bringing a casserole!

Time for the game.  One of the attendees took the time to explain the rules of the game.  Turns out there is very little opportunity to find a cheating partner, since there were no teams, just three tables for the game and you were on your own.

We had the giggles, and yep, we even had a screamer or two.  The BYOB helped to loosen up the stiffest of gamers.  We had one fella the groaned the whole game as he would grab a new card and discard another.  Musta worked, as he won the game at our table.  I tried all of my tricks to break his string of good luck but I was put out of the game before any of it worked.  Turned out he came in second in the championship round.  The amazing thing to me, his lowest hand all night was the last hand of the game!

Before you knew it, the game was over.  The fella that explained the rules was the eventual winner, go figure!  Came time to leave, but with so many cars, you had to wait your turn.  Some of us made a game out of that!  Fun was had by all, and as far as I could tell, everybody went home with the one that brung'em!

Anne & David, thanks for the invite!


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Time Warp

My new job as an assembler took me to the City of Pearl, Mississippi.  I fell in love with Pearl when I first moved to Metro Jackson over 25 years ago.  This was back during the "blue law" days when most stores were closed on Sunday.  Pearl had a Walmart, and it, along with other stores were open seven days a week.  The bonus was that every fast food restaurant imaginable was located on that strip of Highway 80!

Times, my how they have changed.  The landscape of that stretch of Highway 80 has really changed.  Most of the restaurants have relocated to Pearson Road to be near Interstate 20 and the developments centered around the Mississippi Braves ball park.

My work took me to the local Roses store, just off Highway 80.  Not much else there accept some check cashing joints and a pawn shop.  The doors do not open automatically, the ceiling tiles are stained from water leaks, but man, that place is crammed full of merchandise.

I can remember going in there way back when, and it was comparable to the initial Walmart, Howards Discount, and a step above Freds.  This store's current layout reminded me of my initial visit.  Almost nothing had changed from my earlier visits, except that the building had aged.  A memory of an old Star Trek episode flashed through my mind.  The Star Trek crew were on a planet resembled Earth during the nineteen twenties.  I thought, rut, row, time warp!

I was stationed near the back storage room to do my assembly duties.  I was charged with putting together some of their display items.  Most of this stuff is very low end, and when you tighten a screw, you only get one shot at it, since most of the parts are glue & sawdust and plastic!

I got to see the stocking process in action.  The first thing to hit me was no one that passed my was  smiling, or seemed to attempt to take pride in their work.  Several customers inquired where to find something, and the store employees would simply point, and say "over there".

I had to laugh at myself a few times.  I was assembling several rocking chairs, which required an application of glue in addition to the screws.  I held one of the tubes of glue in my hand and apparently I squeezed it a bit too hard.  Next thing I know, the top pops off and glue squirts skyward and hits the ceiling tiles!

Several customers came by and admired my work, and inquired if what I was assembling was for sale.  The store clerk said no, if they sold the displays they would have to pay someone like me to put another one together.  At this point, it was very difficult not to crack up!

The store employees brought me two large boxes containing a wicker patio set.  One of them commented, "wow, I've never seen anything this nice in the store before"!  It retailed for $200!  I got it all put together, and it was time to fill out my paperwork.  I looked at the wicker set, and then one of the rocking chairs.  Scared to try the wicker, I settled into the rocker.  I could just see me sitting on that wicker and ending up in the floor when it fell apart!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Was in the Air in Fairhope Alabama

This is the time of year when spring is just starting to crack its way out of the ground.  The Spousal Unit and I hit the road for our third annual trip to Fairhope, Alabama for their spring arts and crafts show.

Fairhope is neat community, south of I10, just as you come off the Mobile Bay bridge.  Of course, just getting across the bay can be an adventure.  I10 takes you through the Mobile tunnel under the bay, and traffic can get backed up for miles in both directions.  Some folks will use the old downtown tunnel and re-enter I10 further down the road, and others will take the suspension bridge. A little north, slightly off I165.  I forgot to turn and ended up looping back into the I10 mess, but with little wait.
The traffic heading west was backed up for miles, spring breakers heading home.

As you approach Fairhope on US98, you are drawn in by a salute of rows of U.S. flags lining the roadway.  The town is bike friendly, as there are  bike paths on several of the major roads within the City.

Our mission for the day was to explore all of the vendor booths and discover a few treasures.  The main downtown area is blocked off for the artisans to display their wares.  The vendors are chosen from the applications submitted.  It is not a given that vendors will be approved each year, depending on the volume of submissions in their category.  Missed seeing Jewelry by Randy this year.

Fairhope is a pet friendly community, as owners and their pets were visible throughout the festival.  The community even had several pet adoption booths located throughout the fair.

You could definitely tell you were in the south, as a dozen or so young ladies were dressed up in antebellum dresses in a variety of colors, and they were eager to pose for a picture with you.

There was even a food court, complete with kettle corn, pork skins, corn dogs, and dozens of other fair foods being sold by a variety of vendors.  The hot food item this year was being sold by friends of ours, Jack and Lisa Beasley, with Funny Face Foods,  a red velvet funnel cake with powdered sugar and cream cheese icing.  It was the bomb!

We finished up our day at the fair, and with rainy weather fast approaching, we decided to head further south to Gulf Shores and Orange Beach.  We will be returning in May for a conference, and found the resort.

As we cruised the area, I looked at the clock and saw that it was 4:00.  it was obvious it was condo check in time, as the parking lots were full of college kids and all their stuff.  The girls were lugging suitcases of clothes, and the boys were lugging suitcases of beer.  I think it all works out in the end!

Our tour was complete, and it was a bit too early for dinner, so we decided to head back to Mobile Bay, closer to our hotel.  The restaurant of choice was on old US90/98, a place called Felix's.  There are several restaurants in this area, and all the parking lots were over flowing.  Once inside, we discovered that without a reservation it would be a two hour wait!  Ha!  Not on your life!  Ended up at a Mexican restaurant near the hotel.  We will give ole Felix another shot on the way home.

If you have a lazy weekend, give Fairhope a look. The Marriott Grand Hotel is a few miles further south is you want to stay near the water.  Give it all a try, you'll be surprised at what you will find!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Cedric the Entertainer

Well, I officially have myself a new career and a new found friend.

I have found myself a job on an assembly crew that puts together outdoor furniture, and assembles grills, mowers, wheel barrows, and just about anything that comes in a box or crate, that a customer doesn't want to tackle.

My trainer this week has been a guy named Cedric.  I told him he reminded me of "Cedric, the Entertainer".  It has been very entertaining watching my Cedric at work.  This week we were assigned tasks to complete at several home improvement stores in the area.  As fast and efficient as Cedric works, he always stops what he is doing to help a store customer find an item or point them in the right direction.

Before I started this job, I was notorious for not reading the instructions.  Both my Mom and the spousal unit said now would be a good time to start reading them for a change!  Ha!  Wrong!  Cedric, the Entertainer said, "Bill, we ain't got time for that"!  He shows me how to assemble a new item one time, then he keeps a watchful eye one me to make sure that I'm making the right kind of progress.

The first day all I brought were hand tools, thinking a lot of wrenches and sockets would do, along with a variety of screw drivers, etc...  Cedric laughed, and said "oh Lord, you ain't gonna make it to lunch with that"!  He fixed me up with a spare screw gun.  Next day I had make trusty Dewalt with me.  Both days a few screws came real close to being stripped.  Third day I had myself an impact driver.  Oh what a life saver that investment has been!  Here I thought I had all the tools needed and I've already been to the store twice, with one more to go!

On day three we got overloaded with work, and a third guy, Keith, came on board.  Keith is almost as fast as Cedric.  I was working away, and began hearing what appeared to be two sources of music coming out of the Store's overhead speaker.  I mentioned to Cedric that that was driving me nuts!  He got a big laugh out of this one, because Keith had hooked up his personal radio and it was blaring at about the same volume as the overhead!

One of our projects on this day was to service several riding lawnmowers.  These come from overseas in crates.  Keith was working on one that was overloaded with staples.  Keith mentioned out loud, "why does this crate have so many staples in it?"  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity to say, "well, when that Chinese guy heard that this particular crate was going to America, rat-a-tat-tat!"  We all got a big laugh out of that one!

Cedric has been real good about offering hints and suggestions for me as I learn my new craft.  One thing I have learned, is that he is also quite a politician.  It didn't take me very long to understand his compassion for working women.  He goes out of his way to help the female store clerks, and they in turn, light up in smiles when he comes around the corner.  He does a lot for them, but boy does it pay dividends when he needs something from them.

I have always taken pride in my work ethic, but Cedric the Entertainer, has set the bar!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Misadventures of B & T

On this fine day B & T set out on one of their adventures.  The pursuit today was gin trash from a cotton gin about 45 minutes away. We loaded up in my truck with pitch forks, shovels, and a tarp for the bed of the truck.  T mentioned that he needed to get some for a flower bed at his church that we would need to drop off on our way home.

When cotton is run through its initial processing, the cotton fiber is separated from the seeds, hulls, sticks etc... that come along with the cotton at picking time.  The cotton is pressed into bales and sent off to mills for further processing.  The cotton seed is sold to the seed mill and the proceeds pay the ginning charges owed by the cotton farmer, and he usually gets a rebate of the excess funds from the seeds over the cost of ginning.  The "trash" is piled up in the gin yard.  Years ago, the gin would burn this material. 

The gin trash will sit in pile for months, creating a rich mix that can work wonders in garden beds or flower beds.  Most of the weed seeds will rot from the heat that builds up in the gin trash pile.  When the weather heats up, this pile creates a smell of its own.  If you use it, it needs to be tilled into the garden bed so that it can break down further to avoid the odor.

B & T arrived at the gin yard, where two pickups were parked.  We asked for permission to dig in.  Turns out the two guys had just pulled over to talk some business unrelated to the gin.  We moved on to the pile.  I pulled up close so that we could just toss the mix into the back of the truck.  Whoops!  Stuck!

We were on a damp spot and my street tires began to spin.  I was able to work the truck out of the slick, whew!  We walked around the pile, looking for a spot with firmer ground.  A quick conclusion was that damn, shoulda brought a wheel barrel.  I began to back up, not realizing where I was, and I'll be dang,  another soft spot.  Rut row!

B & T spent about 20 minutes trying to work our way out of the second hole.  The trash pile is surrounded by a concrete circle the the trash spreader rotates on.  The front tire was butted up against it and could not get over the hump, as hard as we tried.  The more we tried, the deeper it got!  I ain't believing I have done it a second time.  If that wasn't bad enough, I walked around the back of the truck, and T, in the drivers seat, gunned the engine and I was covered in mud and gin trash!

The gin yard had two tractors, and of course neither were driveable.  I walked back to the main road and was able to flag down a young guy in a pickup.  He agreed to try and pull me out in his truck.  Luckily I had a tow rope in my tool box.  We hooked my truck up to his, and away we go!  Wrong!
We weren't going anywhere.  We even hooked a chain to the tow rope so the other truck could get better traction. We both hit the gas. The guy only had one tire spinning and my truck only had one tire spinning.  Our helper looked like he was in a drag race with his tire just a spinning.  T looked at mine and noticed the wood that we had put under the tire was now on fire from all of the friction!  It just ain't my day!

We unhooked and said our thank you's and good bye to our friendly helper.  Guess it was time for a tow truck.  I used my handy dandy smart phone and looked for a number.  The closest one was in Yazoo City.  Dialed it, and wouldn't know it, the number was disconnected.  Other tow services were located in Clinton, Canton, Ridgeland and Jackson.  I picked on from Ridgeland and made the call.  The truck would be there in about 40 minutes.  To pass the time, we went ahead and loaded up some gin trash using our pitchforks and walking it to the truck stuck in the mud.

We had about a half a load when the tow truck arrived.  I mentioned to the drive that I tried a number in Yazoo City, but the number had been disconnected.  He reminded me that that guy was the tow truck driver that was murdered a few months back for the cash that he had on him.  The driver said all the news outlets did the industry a dis-service for telling the public that they carried a considerable amount of cash on the truck.

We were out of the hole in no time.  The tow truck driver then offered to back his truck up to the gin trash pile and scoop up a load that we could shovel into the back of my truck.  It was a great offer, but I told him, nobody else was gonna get stuck in this gin yard today!  He offered several times, and considering the amount of money I paid him, I was so tempted to do it.  But with the luck I've been having, no deal.

B & T got back on the road home, and stopped by T's church to drop off some of the gin trash for their flower bed.  Turns out it was two beds.  Yep,  it took all the gin trash we had in the truck.  We finally got home, with no gin trash, a truck covered in mud, and a big ole towing bill for our trouble.!

We will be making a return trip to this Gardner's gold mine again soon, but with wheel barrel's in tow!  Hopefully the next trip won't be as eventful.  stay tuned to more B & T misadventures!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Mudbugs

Finally!  The weather was warm, the boys were in town, and the time was right!

This was son#1's birthday weekend and one of the things on his list was crawfish.  In our part of the country you have several choices for dine in, or you can do the home cooking!

On this fine day we decided to go to Mudbugs, off of Old Fannin Road.  Its offset from the road a bit and you sorta have to know where it is.  Its a nice metal building with a gravel parking lot.  Shoulda went in the truck, since that was just about the only thing parked in the lot.  I was tempted to try and throw some gravel with my trusty ole Kia when we left, but I wasn't really sure the Kia could spit those big rocks, pea gravel maybe!

At Mudbugs, like all the other places, you order your bugs by the pound.  With five of us, we decided on ten pounds to start.  We also got the required sides of corn, taters and sausage a la carte.  They also have table food for those that either can't take the heat or just don't partake in the fun.  You can wash it all down with the beverage of your choice, we went with a pitcher of beer, to start.

Proper dress is required, meaning do not wear a white shirt.  Usually by the third or fourth bug you will have dripped something on yourself.

The most common complaints by bug eaters are:  they are too small, not hot enough, or are too mushy.  On this day they were good size and cooked just right!

As we were digging in, it didn't take too long for the pepper to kick in.  As long as you were eating you were fine.  For an extra kicker the corn, taters and sausage are boiled in the same water and they soak up a considerable amount of pepper in the cooking process. If you stop to take a pause or a breather, that pepper would remind you that is was in your mouth!  It didn't take anytime before the first pitcher to be gone!

Before long, we had been threw a whole roll of paper towels and two pitchers of beer.  One of the shack staff came by to clean off the table.  Today's price was $6.50 per pound on the bugs.  I was curious what the live price was.  The guy said they weren't selling them by the sack yet.  They current supply was barely keeping up with the restaurant demand.  With the cold weather we have experienced, the bugs were just now popping out of the ground.  You can drive to south Louisiana to get them, but the fuel costs would kill the table price.

If you've never experienced boiled crawfish, you just don't know what you're missing.  Its best to do it with a crowd.  The pepper and beer tends to get the conversation and stories flowing!

Friday, February 28, 2014

So, ya wanna be a TSA agent

During my time of receiving a government check, I had to report weekly and also apply for three positions each week.  The reporting is all done electronically.

One position that caught my fancy was a part time job being a TSA security agent at the Jackson airport.  I found the link on Career builder.com, pointed my mouse at it and click, I was on my way!  This was two years ago!

I followed the link to the TSA website.  You have to set up a user I'd and no password.,  No biggie.  The secure site has a "dashboard" for you to use so you can follow you progress in becoming a government employee, uniform and all!

After filling out all the paperwork on the website, you give them authorization to do a credit check on you.  They also get your email address so you can be kept aware of your status through the process.  For several months I got an email about once a month.  After that, not so much...

One year later, I get an email inviting me to the next step.  Yes, a year later!  I am to be tested with an aptitude test.

The test is two parts, with a break in the middle.  Because of security reasons I cannot describe the test.  There were 9 other applicants in the room.  After a little bit of discussion, we all learned that each of us had applied over a year ago!  I began the testing, and was on the fast track, so I decided to skip the break and move forward.  I was almost done with the test when I overheard one of the applicants ask the overseer "now how do you get to the next part of the test?".  I just about fell out of the chair!  I finished, got up to leave, and out of the corner of my eye, saw the looks of amazement of the faces of the other applicants.  I'll bet some of them are still there!  Before I got three miles down the road, I got the email that I had passed!  On to the next step!

Another year passes, yep you read that right!  I got am email, then a phone call from the local TSA office, asking me to come in for the next round!

I went to the airport at my assigned time to their undisclosed location.  Spent my time going through the steps, which cannot be disclosed.  They tell me I pass, and hand me an envelope containing the paperwork for a medical physical.

I made my appointment, pee'd in the cup, and jumped through all the hoops.  The medical doctor came in and did his thing, cough, cough.  Now, on to the next step.  Wrong!

I get an email indicating that my file is on medical hold.  I get this envelope containing six requests for additional information, not from me, but from my medical providers!

At this point, I have decided to punt!  If you have not complied with any of their requests for information within 21 days of their request, your file is terminated.  You can restart the process all over again, if you desire, at some point down the road.  I'll be playing with grand babies by then!

Now, to decide what my next great adventure will be!